FROM HONEY TO ASHES
Lucas Bessire | USA, Paraguay 2008 | 47 Min. | OmeU
In March 2004, one of the world’s last voluntarily isolated groups of hunter-gatherers walked out of the forest in northern Paraguay, fleeing ranchers’ bulldozers. They formed a new village with their more settled relatives, where they confronted the complexities of learning how to become “Ayoreo Indians” and more critically, how to survive in a rapidly changing world.
This documentary provides an intimate portrait of a divided community four months after this historical event, and their efforts to chart a collective future in a context shaped by deforestation, NGO activity, anthropologists and evangelical Christianity. Self-consciously engaging a history of ethnographic representations and tropes of “first contact,” the reflexive video uses the filmmaker’s narration to reflect on the experiences and confusions of a process that remains ultimately opaque for the “new people,” for their relatives, and for the anthropologist.
This film contributes to the visual anthropology of lowland South America by putting a human face to critical questions about “contact,” “indigeneity” and the ways certain narrow ideas of “modernity” continue to be presented as the only options for Native peoples in the Gran Chaco and beyond.